Buys may be a con and a brigand, and we might, at our most charitable, view this theft as in keeping with his character, but as the gambit of a novelist it is too blatant – an ungainly form of imitation that we cannot let stand alongside the rest of this tedious and shallow work. We know how the old saying goes, but Red Dog seems very far from flattery.
A winner of multiple prizes in South Africa, it is set in the 1790s and 1800s, and narrated by its larger-than-life antihero Coenraad de Buys... Sprawling and overwrought, epic in its ambitions and, at times, in its achievements, Red Dog is difficult for those unfamiliar with Afrikaans history, but there is no mistaking its energy and imagination.
Anker writes like a talented demon. Here’s a scene in a rural village before a fight between dogs and a hyena: “The hyena is calm, used to people. It’s also been here before. The men howl at the moon like ruttish backyard curs. The wind is keen and bleak; the only cloud in the sky is covering the moon’s shame.”